Fears in Vail over hospital plans | VailDaily.com

Fears in Vail over hospital plans

Melanie Wong and Edward Stoner
Vail CO Colorado

VAIL, Colorado ” Vail Valley Medical Center’s latest plans for downvalley expansion have some community members worried the economy in Vail, Colorado will suffer..

The medical center may spend $200 million or more to build a medical center in Avon, Edwards or Wolcott, said CEO John Cassin.

A world-class orthopedics outpatient center and other services could remain in Vail, while more in-depth surgeries, and “community” services such as obstetrics would be located downvalley, Cassin said.

Plans could be finalized by the end of the summer, with construction possibly beginning in five years.

Members of the Vail Economic Advisory Council, made up of town officials and local business people, expressed concerns about the plan’s economic effect on Vail at a Tuesday meeting.

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The loss of hospital services is a “dramatic reduction” to quality of life and economic generation in the town, said Greg Moffet, a former Vail town councilman and member of the economic council.

Moffet said many people come to Vail for medical procedures, and some of those people may start staying downvalley instead if services relocate there.

Cassin assured council members that the hospital wasn’t planning to “pull out,” but would continue having a strong presence in Vail. He cited space constraints that make it difficult for the hospital to continue growing in Vail as a reason the center was looking downvalley.

He added that more people are moving downvalley and community services are more appropriate there.

“When you look at where the nexus of the population is moving to, it really is moving further west,” he said. “And it’s going to be very, very difficult to shoehorn (expanded services) into a 4-acre type of location.”

Vail resident and business owner Rayla Kundolf said many Vail residents and visitors use the services at the hospital.

“It is a major piece of this community,” she said. “People still live in this town full-time. People still raise their kids, put their kids in school, have babies and do all this … When you’re making decision like this, don’t forget about the community.”

Others were concerned about what the Vail campus would look like in the future.

“Ten to 15 years down the road, I see this as a deserted facility,” said Steve Rosenthal, owner of Colorado Footwear in Vail. “This seems to me as putting more of a verbal Band-Aid on this to say that you’ll still be leaving something here.”

Cassin promised to continue including the community in the hospital’s plans.

“Our intention is not to leave a shell here, but to leave something that the town of Vail would be really proud to have, a world-class asset,” he said

Moffet cautioned hospital planners not to “quietly leave town,” but to keep the town and community informed throughout the process.

“Don’t underestimate the emotional connection this community has with that facility,” he said. “If this comes as a surprise to anyone when it’s announced, it will blow up in your lap.”

Staff Writer Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2928 or mwong@vaildaily.com.

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